Money Talks, Bullsh*t Walks! Q+A with Mie Bilberg

Art by Emily May Rose

Art by Emily May Rose

Continuing the Q+A sessions with industry professionals that may inspire organisations to think and act accordingly. This week we have the former Customer Experience and Marketing Director at Metroxpress, Mie Bilberg.

1. What are the industry trends affecting your business?

Well, the marketing industry has been disrupted, just to use a well-known expression. The challenge is that somewhere in between technology and human behaviour we may have lost the clear picture of what is the role of marketing. Everything from creativity, data, insights, technology, media and communication is now under the marketing umbrella. Marketing is expected to be here, there and everywhere and the big problem is that one day, we risk eliminating the marketing role. Right now, the Chief Marketing Officer has the shortest lifespan in the management team, probably because the role is no longer clear.

2. What are you doing now that you feel good about? Is there anything that you could be doing better?

There is always something I can do better, I believe in lifelong learning. I am on a mission, spreading the words of why we should listen and involve our customers. I am learning every day myself, but I believe in customer experience as a growth strategy, because I have seen it work and it makes sense in 2017 with the technology, we are lucky enough to have.

3. When you start a new project, how do you set yourself up to win?

With a positive approach and evaluating what works and starting from there. We tend to focus on the negative, but I think, there is a lot more to win if we focus on the positive! To win - it takes a clear goal, a specific plan and a team who are willing to learn and navigate from the learnings.

4. We know that feelings and emotions drive human behaviour, but why do you think that storytelling is a powerful tool to build culture?

This is because we remember feelings better than words, stories make us feel and relate. Therefore, if you want to tell me, why I should change behaviour or run after a new ambitious goal, you should start telling a story, to make me understand why this makes sense and which scenarios we are operating within.

5. Based on a prism of what's working and what's not from the customers perspective, how can your organisation realign to meet your customers' needs?

Well, in a way it´s easy as the customer will not buy if it doesnt make sense to them. The street fashion brand Zara came up with a smart and agile way of testing every time a new collection comes out. They start with a small quantity of each item and then they observe the response of their customers. If it sells well, they push the button and produce more, if not, they take it off the market. In my opinion, this is a smart way to lower the inventory and increase the sales.


6. How does trust relate to the customer experience and customer relationships? And what about its impact on employee engagement?

Branding is about trust! We pick a brand instead of a no-name because we trust a friend more than a stranger. When the market of private labels is huge is it because we trust the store behind the private label. When speaking about employee engagement, trust is quite basic, e.g. would you feel excited and engaged if you didn´t feel trusted? You should bear in mind that trust is something which must be earned, as an employee, external consultant or brand, you are chosen because people believe they can trust you, but you still must prove that they were right in trusting you.

7. How do you use customer experience in the battle to win the hearts and minds of your customers?

Customer Experience is basically about making sense for the customers. If your new app or your new shampoo add value to the customers, then you have nailed it. If not, well then you will just be another one in the line. The best products and strategies in 2017 are developed with the customer in the centre of the decision-making process, and how we do that is the biggest difference from the past. It's not new knowledge that creating great products which your customers consider useful is a good idea. But it is new, that you cannot just speed up your sales or marketing campaigns, and then eventually you will hit the targets. We have way too many options today and we don´t want to waste time on things that dont make sense or add value to our lives. I have worked with customer experience for more than 3 years now and the reason why it´s so hard for the most people is, that it goes against our human nature, as we are born to think of ourselves first. Being customer-centric means that you must think with the mind of your customers, and this means you should spend time with them, listening and learning.


8. In your experience, are external consultants better suited to engage employees in dialogue when discussing risks and benefits of customer experience management?

No, but an external consultant brings an extra hand, new eyes and ears and they are not limited by historical internal issues. It can be a very good idea, to have external consultants to bring new perspectives, and they also have experience from a range of other businesses and tasks which brings needed knowledge to the table. I have used external consultants to help me when we were changing from being a brand-centric company to a customer-centric business when I was working in the media business. It was a great help, as they added value, knowledge and they revealed our blind spots. So, it was not only me who had to tell people that we needed to change because no one likes that, but it is sometimes needed. Sometimes, an external consultant can bring an authority to the table which in a way an internal leader cannot.

An external consultant is a trusted advisor, therefore, we selected our consultants very carefully, because a bad consultant is a waste of time, money and leaves you behind looking like a fool!

9. Engagement is a challenge, but in your opinion, when you bring the suggestion to hire an external consultant to your bosses, what questions do you expect them to ask?

I think the most important is the experience and speciality which an external consultant brings to the company. What value are they able to create and what is the framework of working, is it valid and realistic? And, also which resources would be required from the company's side? I personally don´t care if they work day and night, all I care about is if they take us to a better place and make it easier for us to deliver results.

10. If your boss asks "What extra value will this service bring?" How will you prepare for that from a business justification stand-point?

It depends :)

Mie Bilbergs blog:

Q+A with Tina Øvad from Bang & Olufsen


The reluctance to take risks goes against the inherent nature of entrepreneurism. Over the next few weeks I will engage some industry professionals with a short questionnaire (bold), and this week we have Tina Øvad, Senior UX & Usability Lead at Bang & Olufsen.

1. What are the industry trends affecting your business?

Since I am primarily working on a strategic level, the main trends currently are agile UX (User Experience) and scaling agile to suit larger organisations. I can see there is a lot of interest for these fields from many different companies, from a variety of industries.
From a design perspective, we have had positive feedback for our award-winning BeoSound Shape, a bespoke speaker system that can be position on your wall in the same way as a piece of art. And it also helps to improve the room's acoustics, so living with sound is very interesting, as well as voice activated systems.

For more information about BeoSound Shape: -

BeoSound Shape speakers

BeoSound Shape speakers

2. What are you doing now that you feel good about? Is there anything that you could be doing better?

Right now, I am so lucky that I really feel good about the things we are doing and the direction we are heading. I truly believe in the value of working agile with UX and bringing the users closer to our developers. And I am so fortunate that my colleagues at Bang & Olufsen believe in the same.

3. When you start a new project, how do you set yourself up to win?

I never win alone, we are a team! With that said, I think it is so important that we allow ourselves to fail from a UX perspective, as for us we never really fail, we either win or we learn! We are working with "Informed Design" and listening to our customers even though we are not implementing everything we get feedback on.

4. We know that feelings and emotions drive human behaviour, but why do you think that storytelling is a powerful tool to build culture?

By being a great storyteller you set the scene and create a story which hopefully the customer would like to be a part of and share. The fundaments of Bang & Olufsen are engrained within the Danish culture, both due to our role in the Danish history and, also because we originate from the mould of West Jutland. Furthermore, many people are raised with Bang & Olufsen products, and they are recognised for great design and high quality. Continuing this story, and in fact, spreading this story to our global partners is extremely important for us.

5. Based on a prism of what's working and what's not from the customers' perspective, how can your organisation realign to meet your customers' needs?

In the software department, we are working on bringing the users closer to development. This approach is based on Agile UX, UX KPIs, autonomous teams, a UX toolbox, easy access to test participants, use of beta- & VIP testers, and utilise data and information we already have, e.g. Analytics, NPS and CSI.
I am fortunate to be working at Bang & Olufsen where I have been given the freedom to bring the customers closer to us, and these new values are spreading throughout the company.

B&O Play headphones

B&O Play headphones

6. How does trust relate to the customer experience and customer relationships? And what about its impact on employee engagement?

Trust is one of the agile core values and a key factor both when it comes to us working together, but also in relation to making a great user experience. As without a mutual trust between our customers and ourselves, we could not make a great user experience.

7. How do you use customer experience in the battle to win the hearts and minds of your customers?

I work with user experience, so from my point of view, it is important to design and develop products that are easy to use. With both customer experience and user experience being the foundation of our cultural heritage. I believe that with good storytelling and excellent products, these products will become products our consumers will be proud to own.

8. In your experience, are external consultants better suited to engage employees in dialogue when discussing risks and benefits of customer experience management?

Yes, sometimes senior management tend to listen more to external consultants than to in-house specialists. In these cases, I think it is important to acknowledge whether the in-house specialists have experience in the given project or whether an external consultant would be better suited for the task. Usually, the in-house specialists are the ones who have the knowledge about the feasibility, market, etc., and therefore, they should have the final say, as ultimately, they will be the ones who implement the ideas.


9. Engagement is a challenge, but in your opinion, when you bring the suggestion to hire an external consultant to your bosses, what questions do you expect them to ask?

I would expect my boss to ask for a full description of the specific task the external consultant would be hired for and why we are not able to cover these tasks ourselves. "Why not in-house?"

10. If your boss asks – "What extra value will this service bring?" How will you prepare for that from a business justification stand-point?

I would never hire an external consultant without having a clear idea of how that person would bring value to the company. The preparation would be completely dependent on the specific task.

Many thanks to Tina for her time and engagement.
Tina Øvad -



What is the Future for Bricks & Mortar Retailers?


New technologies are also vastly transforming consumers' shopping experience. Today's smart consumers are a lot savvier than earlier generations, after being exposed to a multitude of options offline and online and are empowered to make informed decisions via "word-of-mouth" recommendations and online reviews. Traditional models of cultivating customer relationship via physical stores are being disrupted. Retailers must understand that the line between e-commerce and in-store shopping is non-existent in the consumer's mind. Therefore, merging the e-commerce experience with the in-store shopping and vice versa will allow the brand to get to know their customers' behaviour better, whilst also delivering an elevated experience that is not currently offered by your competitors.

Too many consumers still want to touch, feel and try-on before they buy, so in my opinion bricks and mortar stores are not going to disappear. And, besides, there is nothing like shopping and building friendships, passing time and simply indulging in the atmosphere of "what if, even if I can't!" Today's consumers are seeking personalised, data-driven services, as entertaining, memorable buying experiences can never be replaced with online shopping.

Going forward stores will need to build a "community", take more risks, look at their relationships with employees and stakeholders, reinvent training and embrace unexpected partnerships. With the establishment of e-tailing, physical retailers now must realise that they are competing with leisure experience (e.g. trips to the cinema or live sporting events), for a share of the consumer's valuable time. Eventually, stores will change from being a distribution channel to a media channel.


Retailers must aim to create an environment in which customers who come into their stores leave feeling a greater connection to the brand, and these connections will be built via the creation of experiences. Retailers should use technology, education and entertainment as the tools that serve as the foundation for the brand. This will enable them to connect with their customers and create lasting impressions that will keep them coming back. The hard work of managing this implementation along with your staff may require some external help.

Omni-channel marketing refers to a significant shift where marketers now need to create a consistent, unified, seamless approach across all communication channels, e.g. direct mail, advertising, events, web, mobile, call centre services, etc. These channels need to be fused into a single approach and each piece of the consumer's experience should be consistent and complementary.

Today, too many sales staff see e-commerce as competition rather than an ally. Perhaps it should be a looked upon as a halfway house, a mix between digital and physical models. Both Amazon and Warby Parker (eyewear) started as online ventures, but now have e-commerce and physical stores where consumers can try merchandise out before going on to place their order online rather than carrying their purchases home with them.


Privacy issues are a major concern now, but it is not slowing down the Personal Information Economy (PIE). If a customer thinks that it will benefit them financially or in service terms, they will surrender personal data to credit card companies, Google and their favoured brands and stores. Plus, more and more retailers are offering digital e-receipts – "Can we e-mail you your receipt?" – allowing them to track trending products, buying history and even customer moments.

A future scenario will see a consumers' who are connected to their retailer account when entering a store, beacon technology will be able to provide the sales assistant with their purchasing history, preferred brands and the option to send personalised discounts and promotions to the customer's smartphone. Such technology will also track where shoppers move quickly and where they linger, enabling retailers to make informed decisions about store layout. Staging experiences, embracing omnichannel and mining data are the new credos for physical retailers who want to lead the game.

Do Loyal Customers Still Exist?

Everything we know about shopping – how, where, when and even why we shop is changing radically. I believe that there is still something physical about retail, as we still want to be social and have interactions with other human-beings in a fun and entertaining way. For today's retailer connecting with consumers' through every channel is essential if they are to remain relevant in an ever-changing world. According to Frost & Sullivan, OMNI-CHANNEL is defined as a "seamless and effortless, high-quality customer experiences that occur within and between contact channels". For example, physical stores, smart mobiles, websites, gaming consoles, computers, kiosks, social media (SoMe), online catalogues, etc.


In the past, the consumer saw an advert and if the advertising agency made a good job of telling the brand story, the advert would create product interest and drive consumers along a very linear path which led to purchasing. And if it was a good advert, the consumer would repeat the process and continue to buy in the traditional way - "get me excited about your product, which is available at these fine retailers!" Nowadays you hear about a brand from everywhere (see image) and if you are curious, this will usually lead you to the brands SoMe, app, website or store. Maybe you buy from the brand or one of their affiliate sellers, maybe not, media is no longer the vehicle to push me to a store, it is rapidly becoming the store!

The internet has collaborated our expectations of every purchasing decision that we make. How many of you would book a hotel room without looking at the number of stars or reading reviews? In my opinion, experiences will ultimately be the only differentiator that one retailer has over another in the long term. The days of "stack it high and watch it fly" mentality is over! There are some big questions that brands are going to have to ask, e.g. "What can we use in the way of new technology to gauge the level of engagement the consumer has whilst in-store? How can we create the perfect blend between content and commerce by channel? How to collect, leverage and apply omnichannel data across the various touch points?" It's not just about data, as I'm sure most brands have loads of data – it's about what you do with the data and how you use it.

The aim will always to engage the consumer, but also to drive your business with increased revenue. The big challenge is to find the balance to give your consumer content when they want it, where they want it and how they want it.


There Are Some Similarities Between Planting a Garden and Growing a Business

CREDIT: Getty Images

CREDIT: Getty Images

A gardener will plant seeds of different varieties to harvest what he has planted in the future. He takes great care in nurturing his garden in order that his harvest will be as great as possible. Growing a business is very similar as in nature because you only get out of it what you put into it. A good business plan requires a good business structure which will allow your business to support other businesses, and be charitable with your resources to help others.

Finding the best people is like finding the best soil and being generous with your time. Knowledge, training and leadership are just like using the best water and fertilizer you can find for your garden. Picking out the bad parts and replacing them with the things that work is like making sure you pull the weeds when they pop up. Pulling the first percentage of your crop and saving it for next spring’s planting ensures you have seed for the next year’s harvest. So, putting a little into every employee’s pocket in bonuses and paying them well for working hard ensures that they will be back next year to help make your business grow even more.

Taking your prize-winning growth to market and showing what you can do with your crops gives notice to others that you just might be the person they want to get their produce from. Taking your people along with your brand or product to market shows you have value.  This not only shows that you value the product your team produces, but also it shows you have value in your team, and that without them you have nothing.

Planting a garden and growing a business are very much alike and it is how you show off the people that support your business as this makes all the differences to the outside world. The business owner who lifts-up and praises the people who make his company work is the business owner that people will want to do business with.

How Do You Compete and Win in a Highly Competitive Market


This was the question posed to me at a recent dinner party by a Sales Director after we had gone through the formalities of "What do you do for a living?" He explained that his company was 12 years old and they sold high quality "timeless design classics". The company do not work with agents or distributors, but they have a telephone sales team, and I answered him with an analogy. If you go to your doctor and said that you were sick, the doctor would proceed to ask you a whole host of questions, check the symptoms you had described before prescribing any medication. He smiled and asked whether he could book me for a sales training workshop, with the aim to motivate and inspire his team to increase their sales performance.

We agreed that I should come and spend a day observing his sales team, as you always get great ideas from people who are doing the job. I have found that involving the staff when researching for sales training workshops ensures the team feel a sense of ownership, and then everyone is rolling in the same direction.


Here are a couple of observations from the exploration day in their sales office after listening to the types of calls they were making: "The salespersons have so much to speak about, that they tend to over explain and not focus on what the customer is really looking for." Too much of their sales pitch is in the "so what" category. "Price is a phantom objection", it just means that you have not demonstrated value for the customer, etc.. I also asked the sales team individually amongst other things, whether they were happy at work? What were they doing that they felt good about and what they felt that they needed help with?

The subsequent one-day workshop was built on 3 pillars of excellence: FOCUS - ACTION - REFLECTION
Role-playing to help the sales team understand how to divide their calls between categories (courtesy, qualifying, arranging and pure sales calls). How to interpret customer reactions? How to identify and react to receptive states? How to introduce the company in under 45 seconds? How to build questions around planning, production, pricing, placing, enthusiasm, respect and references. And of course, the classic, how to overcome objections?

I am only qualified to deliver measurable results as passion, guts and hard work are not enough to make a real impact on results! You can always adapt to challenging circumstances by developing your sales team and their skills. I am an optimiser!

Retail Best Practices from Apple

Angela Ahrendts left her CEO position at Burberry in 2014 to join Apple as Senior VP of Retail. According to the Apple Leadership page, “Angela has integrated Apple’s physical and digital retail businesses to create a seamless customer experience for over a billion visitors per year with the goal of educating, inspiring, entertaining and enriching communities. Apple employees set the standard for customer service in stores and online, delivering support from highly trained Geniuses and expert advice from Creative Pros to help customers get the most out of their Apple products.”

The people who know me well know that I am always quoting Apple, as they were not the first technology company to make personal computers, portable digital music players, online music/media stores, smartphones, touchscreens, tablets or smart watches. Sure, these products were progressive, cutting edge and some may say revolutionary, but Apple’s success comes from its unique ability to create brand heat, in other words mass consumer mania upon the rollout of these products. 

Apple Store, 940 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10021, USA

Apple Store, 940 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10021, USA

Based on my observations from the Apple Stores in London and New York, there are many cross-industry and cross-company best practices take-outs that could be applied to your company’s retail experience. For example, do you train your sales staff in how to meet and greet customers when they enter your stores? At Apple, the staff are trained to be personable (eye contact), they are excellent at matching the pace of the customer and respond immediately to expressed or perceived customer preferences. The beginning and end are the most crucial moments in the customer journey because they are what remain in the customers’ memory.

Living in Copenhagen has allowed me to appreciate space and embrace minimalism. When looking at the layout of the Apple Stores, many have commented on the so called “wasted” rack space, but these stores have been designed with customer in mind, and focus on the flow in a crowded store. Apple use technology to streamline customer experience, invoices are not printed but are sent to your e-mail address to streamline the purchasing process for the customers benefit and not for the brand. And in turn, data collection feels so natural that the customer is happy to pass on their personal information.

For a deeper dive, you should read Doug Stephens’ wonderful article “Why Retail Is Getting Experience Wrong”